Ginger, scientific name Zingiber officinale, is a fabulous plant to bring into your gardening world. If you have considered it before, but thought you would need to uproot to the tropics (there could be worse life choices), we are here to tell you that you don’t have to move (but that decision is up to you). What if we told you how to grow ginger from root, anywhere in the world? Pretty tempting isn’t it?
While ginger is a tropical plant, it can grow happily in temperate climates as long as it is indoors. In order to grow indoors, it needs to be in a container. So, if you can find a pot, some well-draining soil, and a draftless spot, grab your favorite ginger-packed recipe and get ready to bring some tropical deliciousness to your home.
A bit of background…
Ginger has an interesting history and a shmorgus board of medicinal and culinary uses.
The known history of ginger goes back 5,000 years, to when it was grown and used as a medicine in India and China. It eventually became an extremely important part of the spice trade and was brought to the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. And in the Medieval Times one pound of ginger was equal to the price of a sheep. What a great image, medieval folks rubbing their chins while deciding between these two options.
Ginger is proven to have medicinal properties, due to the variety of bioactive compounds (compounds that provide a positive function for the body) in the oils of the rhizome. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which provide numerous benefits to the body. It is an anti-nausea agent, and there is evidence that it could have anticarcinogenic properties. There is also evidence that it may protect cardiovascular function, preventing heart disease.
What a wonderful gift that something with so many health benefits is also such an awesome ingredient for cooking. If you are wanting to grow ginger from root, you probably know the intense spice of a raw bite or the wonderful smell of it slowly sauteing. The options for cooking with it are bountiful, but it can also be pickled for sushi, steeped for tea, or dried and ground for shakable spice all year long.With a creative mind, you can incorporate ginger into almost anything.
How to grow ginger from root in 5 easy steps
There are five steps to successfully growing ginger. It all starts with finding a rhizome to plant. But why is it called a rhizome and not a root?
While we often hear the term ginger root thrown around, the correct term is actually rhizome. A rhizome is a stem that grows underground, usually horizontally, shooting up new above-ground stems as it goes. Growing out of the bottom of rhizomes are actual roots, designed to take up nutrients and water. The rhizome helps in reproduction by putting up new stems, and also acts as storage for those nutrients and water. So, while the ginger plant does have roots, the part we eat is the rhizome.
Step 1. Choosing your ginger root (rhizome)
There are two options for where to look for a ginger rhizome.
Option 1: Check out the selection at your favorite grocery store.
The only problem with using store-bought ginger is that they often treat it with a growth retardant so that they are not putting out shoots while in the store. However, sometimes you will see ones that really look like they want to grow. They’re yelling “let me live!” In particular, look for multiple lively “eyes”, growth nodes like those of potatoes, that have signs of life.
If you go this route, try to buy organic, pick out a few so that you have a better chance of success, and take them home. Soak them in warm water overnight, and then either leave them in water until roots grow to about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) long before transplanting them into soil, or plant them in soil after one night of soaking. Both ways work, and experiments are always part of the gardening fun, so choose what sounds best to you, or try both methods!
Option 2: You can buy live ginger rhizomes from producers online.
I found that Etsy has a couple of options, and a little internet research will lead you to other options. Producers sell these rhizomes are with the intention that they will be grown. So they are not treated with a growth retardant. Just be sure to buy ones that state they are for growing, because you can also find rhizomes online meant only for cooking. Those meant for growing can be planted directly in soil upon their arrival.
Step 2. Prepare your space, container, and soil
You will want a space in your home that receives about five hours of sunlight per day. In its natural environment, ginger grows in partial shade, so it does not require as much sun as other plants. It also enjoys humidity, so try to find a spot that draft doesn’t affecte. In particular, avoid placing it near an air conditioner, fan, etc. The more moist and still the air is, the better.
The rhizomes will grow more horizontally than vertically, so choose a pot (one with drainage holes) that gives the rhizome some elbow room. You can also plant multiple rhizomes in one large pot. It will then be necessary to “pot-up” as the plants grow. You will have to use up to a 5 gallon (18 liters) pot for one full-sized plant.
Ginger will grow best in well-draining, yet moist soil. A good mixture is high-quality compost with a little average soil and a little coconut coir, if you can get your hands on that. Good quality potting soil will also work, as it is loaded with nutrients. Ginger is a nutrient-hungry plant so whatever you use, make sure the nutrients are there.
Step 3. Plant the ginger root (rhizome)
Mostly fill your pot with the soil mix. Lay down your rhizome with the growth nodes pointing up. And cover it with 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) more of soil.
If growing multiple rhizomes in one pot, space them 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) apart.
Water only lightly at first, so that the soil is damp but not soaked.
Step 4: Care for your ginger babes
It can take anywhere from three to eight weeks for shoots to appear.
Once you see greenery, you will want to water a bit more. Because once they have roots and leaves, ginger requires more water for a steady growth. You don’t want the soil consistently soaked, but a daily water will keep the soil moist and the ginger happy. The soil shouldn’t completely dry out between waterings.
Step 5: Harvest time is the best time
After a year of growing, the leaves on your plants will die back. However, the rhizome is still growing and new leaves will arrive.
You can harvest your ginger after this first year, but it is usually preferable to wait 2-3 years before harvesting. The rhizome will get bigger and have a stronger flavor.
However, one year old ginger is lovely and refreshing. It had a unique spin on the older rhizomes we usually buy at the store. My recommendation is to grow at least a few plants (many, if you have the space!) and experiment with trying both.
When you are ready, simply pull up the rhizome, cut off the above-ground stem, and you are ready to cook!
Now you know how to grow ginger from root, reflect on your experience! Do you think you need to adjust your soil mixture next time? Did you second guess if you watered the right amount? Maybe you want to add more pots and need to plan how they will fit in your space? Here at The Green Conspiracy, we believe in writing (and drawing) everything down in order to track and learn about our garden while staying away from the computer screen. Check us out, and happy ginger-ing!